Posted on March 27 2019
The most important workout you aren't doing, what do you think it is?
Is it biking?
Is it swimming?
Is it yoga?
Is it running away from your feelings?
Any other guesses? No?
Drum roll please…
So what's the deal with meditation? Why is this the most important workout? Is it working out if you aren't moving? Let me tell you!
First let’s start with what meditation is.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of meditation is “the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed”.
Meditation is also closely related to mindfulness - a practice of being conscious or aware.
What are the benefits of meditation?
- Increased focus
- Improved immune health
- Decreased pain and inflammation (at the cellular level!)
- Boosts positive emotions - compassion
- Relate better to other people
- Feel less lonely
- Increased grey matter
- Increased cortical thickness (areas related to paying attention)
Now that you know some of the benefits of meditating, what do you do? What does meditation look like?
Well, meditation looks however you want it to look!
Below is how I meditate. Yours doesn’t have to look like mine. Do whatever feels right for you.
Step 1: Decide the length of time
Today you might have 5 minutes, tomorrow you might have 10 seconds. Whatever amount of time you have is great. Set an alarm on your phone for the length of time you picked - and not the alarm you use to wake up in the morning.
Step 2: Pick something to focus on.
Things to focus on could be your breath, your body, self compassion, inspiration, or a simple awareness of the present moment.
Step 3: Start meditating.
Your mind will most likely wander throughout your meditation and that is completely okay. When your mind starts to wander it’s important to label, in a non judgmental way, the thing that you wandered to. You may get caught up in family stress, work, emotions, to do lists, or an upcoming birthday party. That's ok, simply try and bring yourself back to the present moment - back to what you are focusing on. Its okay if your mind wanders 100 times in two minutes or once every five minutes. Just bring yourself back and continue.
Step 4: Notice how you feel.
As soon as your time is up for meditating notice how you feel. Do you feel lighter? Happier? Maybe you feel like that was impossibly difficult. Just observe your feelings.
And Always Remember!
Meditation does not have to be some elaborate process where you light incense and chant mantras for hours on end. Meditation can be as simple as sitting at your desk at work and focusing on your breath. It could be for as short or as long as you would like.
Maybe three minutes is all the time you can spend on meditation right now. Maybe the thought of meditating for three minutes makes you want to jump out of your skin. Bring the time down to a minute or 30 seconds - whatever you need to get your feet wet.
Perfection is not the goal.
Now that you know how to meditate, let's dive into some common questions.
What if I don't like meditating?
Meditation is a practice and takes time to develop. I suggest sticking with it and meditating for shorter periods of time.
Do I need to go to meditation classes?
Not unless you want to. Classes are a great way of connecting with other people who share your interests but they aren't for everyone.
Can I meditate while doing other things? Like driving?
Yes you can! You can practice mindfulness and really try to stay in the present moment. Pick something to focus on - your breath perhaps.
What expectations should I have for meditation?
None. Absolutely no expectations because they can aggravate judgmental thoughts.
Is there anyway to meditate on my phone?
Yes definitely! Try some free apps.
Here’s a list of the 15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps (selection for 2019)
Now that you know what meditation is and why it's the most important workout it's time to get your OM on!